5. Transfrontier movement of livestock THE DEPENDENCE STILL REMAINS
Rameshwar Singh Pande
(Published in ‘The Rising Nepal’ ,Daily National Newspaper, Kathmandu, Nepal, 29 April 1996)
TRADITIONALLY, transfrontier movement of livestock in between Nepal and Tibet (China) is practiced for pasturing and trading in the northern region. This region comprises altogether 20 high Himalayan districts and consists of 43 percent (6.3 million ha) of the total land area of Nepal about 10 percent of total population. Livestock play an important role in the socio-economy of the high Himalayan northern region. Livestock is regarded as an asset and are the prime sources of milk, wool, draught, manure, pack and cash. The main livestock are yak, chauri, goats and sheep.
There are close similarities in life style, language, religion and custom between the Nepalese and the Tibetan people, in particular, the trans-Himalayan regions such as Mustang, Manang and Dolpa. The northern region is characterized by abundance of high Himalayan snow-covered peaks, steep terrain, remoteness, relatively underdeveloped infrastructure and social activities. crop production is low due to limited amount of cultivable land, severe cold and short growing season. Almost all the northern districts have food deficit situation.
In this region, free movement of human beings and livestock has been practiced since long. Barter system of trading has prevailed in this region. Nepal exports food grains, fruits, timber etc. and imports salt wool and other household items. (but the situation has been reversed these days, Nepal being a deficit country and a quite significant amount of foods, fruits and other goods are being imported from Tibet to Nepal).
The total population of cattle, buffaloes, sheep and goats are 6.8 m, 3.3 m, 0.9 m and 5.6 m respectively. Out of the total population, the northern region has 18 percent cattle , 20 percent goats and 56 percent sheep. An, about 40,000 of yak and chauries, which are found only in the northern region.
The total production of milk in Nepal is 0.9 million MT, meat 0.16 million MT and wool 624 MT. The northern region contributes 13 percent of milk, 14 percent meat and 56 percent of wool of the total production. About 120 MT of yak cheese is produced in high altitude regions.
Extensive pasture lands are found in this region. Out of the pasture land of 1.7 million hectare, over 80 per cent is located in the northern region. The pasture lands remain covered for about 7-8 months under snow and provide grazing for about 3-4 months a year. However, the lower altitude pastures are used for about 7-8 months by the migratory herds. The natural pasture lands provide over 65 per cent of the total feed supply.
Farmers adopt migratory system. During the rainy season (July to September), livestock are taken to the high alpine pasture, up to the altitude 5,000 m. and during winter livestock graze on lower altitude, around 2,500 m. In such migratory movement, yak never comes below 3,000 m. But, crosses of yaks such as the Chauri, spent winter months grazing either in forests or in fallow crop land. Male animals such as yak, Jhopkyo (male chauri), castrated chyangra and sheep are used as pack animal for the transportation of salt and food grains. During winter, flocks of sheep and chyangra come to the town areas of the foot hills.
Due to the century old continuous grazing and high stocking rate, the production and productivity of the pasture lands are declining. The feed deficit is estimated to the over 49 per cent as compared to the demand. Most of the pasture lands are in deteriorating conditions and subject to serious soil erosion and land slides. Moreover, over 40 per cent of the pasture land of Nepal is inaccessible due to lack of mule trails, brides and drinking water sources for livestock.
Compared to the Nepalese side, pasture lands in Tibet are more extensive, more productive and have less snow and rain fall. Transfrontier movement is usually practiced by the farmers of Taplejung, Sankhuwasabha, Dolkha, Sindhupalchok, Gorkha, Mustang, Manang, Dolpa, Mugu, Humla, Bajhanh and Darchula. In the mid-western districts such as Humla and Mustang, animals move into the drier grazing areas of Tibet during the winter season, whereas in the central eastern region of Nepal such as Sindhupalchok and Dolkha, animal seasonally migrate into Tibet during summer. Animal from Tibet also migrate into Nepal during summer and graze in the Kharks (pasturelands) of Humla, Bajhang and Darchula districts.
The traditional migratory system has caused a number of problems such as overgrazing, outbreak of contagious diseases and pests, environmental degradations etc. Since 1960, it was to discourage the transfrontier pasturing by both the respective Governments of Nepal and China. An agreement between government of Nepal and People’s Republic of China was signed on 30., Sep 1983, relating to trans-frontier pasturing. It was agreed to control the numbers of migratory nerds gradually. Grazing facilities were provided to the farmers of 4 districts only, viz. Humala Mustang, Sindhupalchok and Dolkha. A total of 10,000 heads of livestock were allowed to graze for about 6 months during the winter period. Similarly, grazing facilities were provided to about 1,000 heads of Chinese animals to graze in the pastures of Humla, Bhajhang and Darchula. Grazing taxes were imposed by the Chinese authority for migratory herds of Nepal. Nepalese herders have to pay Rs 1.6 (0.2 Yuan) per sheep and goats and Rs 6.4 (0.8 Yuan) per horse or cattle as compensation. But no grazing taxes were imposed for the Chinese animals by Nepal. The duration of agreement was for 5 years for the inhabitants of Humla and Mustang districts and 3 years for Sindhupalchok and Dolkha districts. The last date of the agreement was fixed 31 March 1988 for Humla, 30 April 1988 for Mustang, 30 September 1986 for Sindhupalchok and Dolkha respectively. The major pasture lands provided to the Nepalese herders were Swasideu of Yurang county for Humla, Ziyawolosyukang and Ouwore of Jhonga county for Mustang, Jadung district Nyaldung county for Dolkha district. In the memorandum signed in 1988, the agreement was extended up to 1991 for the crucial districts.
To cope with the sever feed deficit situation the Department of Livestock Services had implemented a ten year project” Northern Belt Pasture Development Programme” from 1983 to 1992. The project was implemented in ten districts including the very crucial districts viz. Humla, Mustang, Sindhupalchok and Dolkha. About 4,000 ha of pasture lands have been improved, 532 farmers trained, 39 mule trails and 41 water tanks for livestock constructed. Compared to the severity of the problem, the impact of the programme was insignificant. Out of the total available pasture lands only 0.2 per cent was improved. However, the programme created awareness among the g-farmers towards the improvement of pasture and fodder development and environmental conservation. The efforts of pasture development were constrained by poor people’s participation, difficult mountain terrain, unavailability of appropriate technology, scarce resources and lack of trained manpower.
The geographical location has forces the border inhabitants for example, Limi VDC (Humla), Lohmanthan VDC ( Mustang), Lamabagar VDC (Dolkha), Kimanthanka VDC (Sankhuwasabha) and Sirdibas, Prok, and Lhuchet VDCs (Gorkha) to take their livestock towards Tibetan pasture lands especially during winter. At present, the more crucial districts from feed deficit point of view are Mustang and Humla. In Humla, farmers of Limi are compelled to take about 1,300 heads of livestock towards Tibet for winter pasturing. Similarly, in Mustang, the more crucial VDCs are Lohmangthang, Chhonup and Chhoser where about 4,000 heads of livestock are facing winter feed deficit problems.
Though the problems of pasture improvement in Tibetan plateau are the same, the Chinese authority has developed appropriate technologies for the pasture improvement. The pastures of the Tibetan side are much than ours. However, in Tibet, summer is relatively dry and there is low fodder production in this season. So the farmers of the Yuang county of China (Tibet) have to bring their cattle to Nepalese pasture lands during summer. In Humla, over 5,000 heads of Tibetan stock graze on Limi areas during summer, especially in the Pari-khatka of Muchu village and Chuwa and Nili kanda khark of Thehe village community.
The improvement of pasture and feed resources in the only alternative to uplift the economy of the people living in the northern region. To improve the mutual cooperation and social harmony the agreement on transfrontier pasturing between Nepal and China needs to be reexamined for the betterment of the dwellers along the northern frontier.